, founder and CEO Jeffrey Hurant, has pleaded guilty to prostitution charges 14 months after the male escort website’s offices was shut down after being raided by federal agents.
Prosecutors had alleged that Rentboy was the equivalent of an online brothel, and what the site called escorts were actually prostitutes. They said part of the proof were in the explicit ads that featured nude photos, listings of all manner of physical attributes and pricing options ranging from $150 an hour to $3,500 for a weekend.
Jeffrey Hurant faces up to five years in prison and a $10 million fine for conspiring to launder the proceeds of illicit advertising on the website through his corporation Easy Rent Systems Inc. from 1996 to 2015.
“The corporation operated primarily for a criminal purpose,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tyler Smith said.
Hurant, 51, admitted in Brooklyn Federal Court that he knew the ads on the website were for male prostitution.
The takedown of the website was led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Its involvement, along with an absence of any allegations that Rentboy was a menace to society beyond simple prostitution – like engaging in human trafficking or exploiting minors – has stirred anger and fear in the gay community. Activists questioned why the agency would single out Rentboy when other escort websites, gay or straight, continue to do business.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which participated in the investigation along with the New York Police Department and other agencies, issued a statement saying “any insinuation that a specific population was targeted is categorically false.”
Federal authorities dropped charges against six other employees in February.